(BIVN) – In a 5 to 2 vote, the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources concurred with the recommendation of contested case hearing officer Riki May Amano, approving a Conservation District Use Permit to build the Thirty-Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.
The land board issued a media release on Thursday morning, in which the board said it recognizes “its responsibility to strike a balance between native Hawaiian traditional and cultural practices and other stakeholders in the state.”
The BLNR’s Decision and Order was 345 pages long. The document reveals the two “no” votes, both accompanied by short, hand-written statements of “I do not concur”, were Stanley Roehrig and Keith “Keone” Downing. The remaining five members (chair Suzanne Case, James Gomes, Thomas Oi, Samuel “Ohu” Gon III, and Christopher Yuen) all voted “yes”.
In the media release, Board and DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said, “This was one of the most difficult decisions this Board has ever made. The members greatly respected and considered the concerns raised by those opposed to the construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope at the Mauna Kea Science Reserve.”
From the DLNR:
Supporters of the project testified during a contested case hearing and in oral arguments that Hawaiian culture and modern science can co-exist on the mountain. Construction of the TMT is expected to provide jobs for more than 100 people and at completion, permanent jobs for as many as 140 workers on the island of Hawai‘i. The consortium of research universities behind the TMT have provided $2.5 million for scholarships, classroom projects, and STEM grants every year since 2014. Under the CDUP, builders of the TMT must provide an additional one million dollars each year for college scholarships for native Hawaiians and other educational initiatives on Hawai‘i Island.
The approval comes with 43 conditions, including (in bold):
10. The University will decommission three telescopes permanently, as soon as reasonably possible, and no new observatories will be constructed on those sites. This commitment will be legally binding on the University and shall be included in any lease renewal or extension proposed by the University for Mauna Kea;
11. Notwithstanding any lease renewal or extension, consistent with the Decommissioning Plan, at least two additional facilities will be permanently decommissioned by December 31, 2033, including the Very Long Baseline Array antenna and at least one additional observatory.
According to the BLNR, the conditions 10 and 11 are in-line with Governor David Ige’s previously detailed “path forward” 10-point plan.
22. Sublease rent will be deposited into the Manna Kea Lands Management Special Fund, and only used for management of Mauna Kea and related purposes as provided by law;
It should be noted the sublease is embroiled in a separate, legal challenge that still needs to be concluded.
The land board attempted to address some of the pressing issues concerning Native Hawaiian cultural practices:
35. UHH shall consult with the Kahu Kū Mauna Council and cultural practitioners to the extent feasible to plan for, and establish, an appropriate area on Mauna Kea, within the MKSR, to be used by native Hawaiians for religious and cultural purposes; provided that this condition shall not affect the timing of TMT construction or operation;
36. UHH shall allow reasonable access to the area established under Condition 35 for the exercise of any native Hawaiian traditional and customary practices to the extent feasible, reasonable, and safe. The allocation of this area shall be in addition to all other cultural and access rights of native Hawaiians to other areas of Mauna Kea as provided by law or by other conditions set forth herein;
There is also this:
30. Should historic remains such as artifacts, burials or concentration of charcoal be encountered during construction activities, work shall cease immediately in the vicinity of the find, and the find shall be protected from further damage. The contractor shall immediately contact the State Historic Preservation Division (692-8015), which will assess the significance of the find and recommend an appropriate mitigation measure, if necessary; the Applicant will also notify the Office of Hawaiian Affairs at the same time;
BLNR also got into some of the recommendations made by PUEO, the Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities non-profit that is supportive of astronomy on the mountain.
2. Working with the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, OMKM, and Kahu Kū Mauna to develop informational exhibits for visitors regarding the natural, cultural and archaeological resources of Mauna Kea that could be used at the Mauna Kea VIS, ‘Imiloa, TMT facilities, and other appropriate locations;
Absent from the condition is specific mention of ‘Imiloa Uka, as suggested by participant PUEO and as supported by board member Roehrig in stern questioning of UH officials at the September 20 hearing. However, the board did go on to set two more conditions that related to other PUEO recommendations. They are:
37. In order to enhance the Hawaiian cultural presence on Mauna Kea, UHH shall include products and handicrafts with a native Hawaiian cultural theme among those sold at the Mauna Kea VIS, and explore whether an expanded area for specifically native Hawaiian crafts can be accommodated at or near the VIS;
39. UHH and TIO shall develop a plan to implement and extend early entry programs for at-risk children of Hawaiian ancestry and other at-risk youth in the community of UH Hilo. The early entry program shall provide educational opportunities in STEM-related and other curriculum such as the following:
(a) Astronomy, math, science, engineering, environmental science and technical support careers at astronomy facilities;
(b) Hawaiian language and culture;
(e) Biology and agriculture;
(f) Law Enforcement/criminal justice;
(g) New disciplines of learning dependent on career fields needed; and
(h) On-the-job training as necessary.
UHH/TIO shall report to BLNR on the progress of this condition prior to the completion of TMT construction; provided that progress on this condition or lack thereof shall not affect the construction or operation of the TMT Project and provided further that it requires no commitment for funding other than staff time for plan development;
40. UHH shall make reasonable accommodations for the use of facilities at Hale Pōhaku for the Hawaiian Language and Hawaiian Studies programs at UHH and HCC, along with their continued use by others;
PUEO specifically asked for a “mauka extension of Ka Haku ‘Ula ‘O Ke’elikolani Hawaiian Language College and the Hawai’i Community College Hawaiian Studies program to facilitate a Hawaiian Leaming Center and Language/Culture development on Maunakea for students, visitors, the general public and especially astronomers;” as well as an International Education, Peace and Cultural Amphitheater “designed to provide a forum for the discussion of world peace, religion, governance and the future of mankind on Earth and in the Cosmos, as well as a place for halaus to practice.” The Amphitheater did not make the cut for the official BLNR list of conditions.
Under the general conditions, the BLNR states:
4. Any work done or construction to be done on the land shall be initiated within two (2) years of the approval of such use, in accordance with construction plans that have been signed by the Chairperson, and, unless otherwise authorized, shall be completed within twelve (12) years of the approval. The UH Hilo shall notify the Department in writing when construction activity is initiated and when it is completed;
BLNR does not appear to address pleas by participants asking for a stay on construction until all appeals are settled.
Other conditions include waste minimization plan for hazardous & solid waste to include a zero discharge wastewater system, cultural and natural resources training for workers, invasive species prevention and control, and arthropod monitoring and Wekiu bug habitat restoration study.
The CDUP applicant University of Hawaii issued this statement following the decision:
“The University of Hawaiʻi thanks the Board of Land and Natural Resources and the hearing officer for all of their diligence and hard work on this second contested case. The university first applied for this permit seven years ago, and we believe this decision and the underlying vote represent a fitting and fair reflection of an issue that has divided many in the community who care deeply about Maunakea.
Maunakea is precious to all of Hawaiʻi, and we know that science and culture can synergistically coexist there, now and into the future. We have a solid foundation to build on with the plans that have been developed and the work that has been done thanks to the dedication of the Office of Maunakea Management and the volunteer community members who have served on the Mauanakea Management Board and the Kahu Kū Mauna council over the past 17 years.
We know we have more to do, and we stand firmly committed to collaboratively build a global model of harmonious and inspirational stewardship that is befitting of the amazing cultural, natural, educational and scientific traditions and resources of Maunakea.”